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I haven't read them myself, but I get the sense that Tolkien wrote some short stories and fragments that don't directly tie into Arda and Middle Earth, that are more "stand alone" tales. Some of these were even tied back into Middle Earth later on (I seem to recall that this is what happened to Tom Bombadil, for example).

But did Tolkien conceive of any large works or fleshed-out worlds that don't have any connection to the world of Arda? Was the world of The Lord of the Rings the only one Tolkien worked on, or did he have others?

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Yes he did. Although many parallels can be drawn between the various backdrops for Tolkien's stories, they weren't all specifically placed in Arda or Middle-Earth on which he spent most of his time and against which others simply pale in comparison.

For example, for The Smith of Wootten Major, we travel to the land of faery and see the world Tolkien believed was a sort of parallel place to ours in which "magic" is real and where our own "true" stories are inspired.

I have not read Roverrandom, but I do know that in it, a dog becomes a toy and has to travel to find the Wizard that did it. The backdrop is a fairy-tale world, but, as far as I know, isn't specifically Middle-Earth.

Similarly, Farmer Giles of Ham is about a man who stumbles upon being a hero when a giant comes onto the farmer's land. He then, through a series of happenstance, has to fight a dragon. The reluctant hero, is again set in a fairytale kingdom for his story to occur. However, the kingdom is really a parody of the same fairy tale kingdom many dragon-slaying stories take place in rather than a world that is specifically a part of Middle Earth.

AND you are correct that certain parts of middle earth were not originally intended as a part of Middle Earth. In The Return of the Shadow (at least I THINK it was this one), Chris Tolkien mentions that the Hobbits were not originally intended as a part of this same storied world at all, but because J.R.R. was so deep in Middle Earth and the world so loved the Hobbits he simply couldn't keep them apart - they fit a need in the story, Unwin wanted a sequel to the Hobbit and the rest is history.

I'll also add that from a young age, Tolkien kept a journal in which he sketched many pictures of imaginary places and circumstances. In one of my favorite sketches he draws a man walking off a cliff, but the man clearly isn't falling and just continues walking - something that would not have been possible even in Middle Earth. Even if he didn't publish a story in which such an event took place, it doesn't mean he didn't create a world in which such a thing could happen even if his creation never went beyond a simple sketch.

Whether or not these "worlds" are as full and complete as Middle Earth isn't arguable, none of them are as detailed and "finished" as Middle Earth, but when compared with what is created for the setting for most "fairy tales" they were at least as complete as the standard story "world."

Additionally, though it might sound a bit mad. Tolkien believed in a "real world" which is Faerie. This is the land he references in Wootten Woo, Farmer Giles and probably also Roverrandom. If I recall correctly, it is referenced or used in Leaf by Niggle too. Tolkien said about it:

Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold...The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost. On Faerie

Since Tom Bombadil only vaguely fits into the story of the rings and was originally created before the epic with other inspirations, I would argue it possible that he, like the Hobbits was originally from a different world altogether and perhaps also from the Land of Faery until he was moved into Arda:

As with Roverandom, Tolkien's initial inspiration came from an incident with his children playing with toys. Tolkien invented Tom Bombadil in memory of a Dutch doll which had been flushed down a lavatory.6 These original poems far pre-date the writing of The Lord of the Rings, into which Tolkien introduced Tom Bombadil from the earliest drafts. Wikipedia regarding Tom

I think Tolkien's many references to Faerie, shows he put a lot of thought into this world. Much of his art also depicts parts of this world, his stories are - according to him often inspired by this world (Including LotR), and the Smith of Wootten Woo teaches us a lot about his thoughts regarding how humans could and do travel there - but only a special chosen few. I would say that he "fleshed out" this other world in his own mind - or at least the borders of it that he "was privileged to see." It had rules, a history, was inhabited by numerous races and creatures, had a variety of ecosystems. . .

It is important to note that some people could be quoted as saying Arda and Faerie are one in the same, but in the cases I've seen these statements are more symbolic in nature and not literal. Plus, Tolkien didn't talk about it in this way and there are key differences between the world he sets forth in Wootten Woo and Arda. At best you could argue Arda, was a part of the universe of Faerie when looking at the entirety of Tolkien's work and references to Faerie.

While I can see and understand an argument that would say settings for short stories are not fleshed out, the fact that he revisits this second world, "The Perilous Realm" or "Land of Faerie" over and over again, and the work that has been published that references this work (including much of his artistic work) stands as a world at least as fleshed out as those in creations by such people as Ursula K. LeGuin, Madeleine L'Engle, or the future presented in the Time Machine by H.G. Wells. It does not include separate languages for the different races that inhabit it like Middle Earth - but neither do most creations of other worlds.

To hold Tolkien (and all authors) to the standard set by Arda would mean Tolkien is arguably the only person to have ever created "another world" or at least the number of authors who have, could be counted on one hand only and none of them would have created more than one. In this case, Tolkien's other world (The Land of Faery) also wouldn't count. That standard is way too high in my estimation. However, when compared to other works in which another world was made, I would say the Land of Faery certainly ranks as one more world also created by Tolkien.

  • -1 Then, every writer who writes a book is creating a "world". So, any single published or unpublished but known "stuff", which do not "mention" ME, can be counted as a "world" of its own. This is redundant to say, and the Q becomes highly subjective: again, what does it count as "world"? To me, all your list does not, otherwise, as said, all (for all writers) count as a "world". – ShinTakezou Jan 18 '14 at 11:13
  • totally disagree. Otherwise, as written elsewhere, everything is a world and the question collapse into "has JRRT written tales unrelated to the world of LotR?"; and being the answer yes, hence he's created other worlds. JRRT was good at drawing, but I know a lot of persons who do and have great imagination depicting gorgeous "other worlds". But does these count as "world"? I say no, again. Since otherwise everything is a world, even mine. But I see "many" agree with your idea, and it's not worth it to reason with the opinion of the majority. – ShinTakezou Jan 18 '14 at 16:23
  • I've seen many, but can't say surely all. I've a book about pictures/drawings of JRRT, even those he made on already written papers (newspaper or whatever). – ShinTakezou Jan 18 '14 at 16:38
  • do you realize that the Land of Faerie is like saying The Land of Immagination? (though in a more specific sense, explained by the essay you linked). What about metaphors?Allegories?if the land of faery is another specific world by JRRT,how do you explain wording as "for fairy-stories are not in normal English usage stories about fairies or elves, but stories about Fairy, that is Faerie, the realm or state in which fairies have their being."? It seems to me you misunderstood the essay. – ShinTakezou Jan 19 '14 at 15:11
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    Farmer Giles of Ham seems to be intended to happen somewhere in Anglo-Saxon England (the use of Latin, the later history and the general feel of the setting suggests it). – Francis Davey Nov 13 '14 at 10:52
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Tolkien spent a life on the world "behind" The Lord of the Rings. Almost literally. I daresay it's hard he can have used even a small fraction of his "energy" and time in order to create other worlds which can compare to a fraction of the amount of details and depth of his Middle Earth or even have just the bare minimum to be considered "large works" or "worlds" and not only as "scenery" or "setting" for a tale.

This is, as pretended it should be by DVK, a quantative analysis made by heart on what I've read of and on JRRT. JRRT mind was so much "into" his world that he was able to answer to curious letters asking about flowers, trees, and other details which even are not showing off in published books, as if he was talking about a real, existing world.

Who has his creative mind so deeply "engaged" in such a great creation, hardly create things that diverge enough and yet can be considered "world", and that are large works, unless you want to count a generic "setting" for a tale.

But then, every writer creates a "world" in the very moment he writes or draws something — even I did it several times, even when in my youth I've painted a section (like an anthill in a glass box) of an underearth network of tunnels where humans took refuge from monsters. And about JRRT, yes he wrote (or drew) "stuffs" which are not part of "The World", and so they have their own setting, and a tale (or collection of tales) setting could be counted as a world of its own.

But if you follow this as definition for a "world", then the answer is Yes of course, since he wrote other tales somewhat unrelated to "The World", and, according to the balancedmama answer words (bold is mine):

at least as complete as the standard story "world."

Since I do not count any of the works of the "balanced mama" answer as world, nor as large works, (nor I count as "world" the settings of standard stories), then my answer to this question continue to be no, JRRT has not created other worlds beyond "The World".

Some detail

It seems like the OP has relaxed his vague requirements of large works or fleshed-out worlds, since there's no discussion about what these requirements should be actually, and whether the other works of JRRT fulfil them.

There are first general questions about what is a «large work», and what is a «flashed-out world». Without an agreement on these, every answer could be considered questionable.

Then, what is a large work? How do we evaluate the “largeness” of a work? Is it about the number of pages the author published when he was alive? Is it about the number of published and unpublished pages and notes? Is it about the time spent thinking about the story?… We need to restrict to a measurable (and cognizable) rule. Number of pages or words are measurable, but once we do it, we need to put a landmark somewhere and say, arbitrarily, that everything "before" this landmark is not a «large work», everything "after" is a «large work».

I won't try for real to do such a silly measurement and I will simply claim that none of the other original works of JRRT can be considered «large works». This is surely true if we compare them to his most known creation; but my claim is that it is true in general: there are no stand alone tales which are both «large work» and which are not tied into Arda and Middle Earth.

Now, we have to think about fleshed-out worlds. Since english is not my mother tongue, I had to check the meaning of fleshed-out. It seems to me the requirements is about whether we can consider these worlds detailed enough to be more than simply a "setting" for a story.

But again, how can we measure the amount of “details”? Namely, we need a way to decide if something is a fleshed-out world or it is not.

However, we should first discuss about what we mean by the word “world”. If we use this term in the widest meaning, then —since every tale "happens" somewhere— every tale has its world, and the author of such a tale had to conceive it in order to set his/her story.

That is, if we cancel the adjective fleshed-out, every tale (story, book, …), no matter who's its author, implies a conception of a world —even when it "overlaps" (wholly or partly) with the world we live in; though I think many are thinking implicitly of worlds that are “invention” and therefore would not consider as “worlds” those of, say, the novels by Patricia Conway, or of verist novels.

Once we introduce back the adjective (fleshed-out), we are also back to our original problem: "how much" the world need to be “fleshed-out” in order to be counted for the OP's question?

It is ridicolous to me any appeal to objectivity, since the question has many (if not all) subjective traits. It's equally ridicolous to pretend we need to put the full list of JRRT works, or to do a "quantitative analysis" —provided we have a proper definition of what a "quantitative analysis" is, and we agree upon.

It is a reasonable, but debatable, approach to use the very same thought of JRRT to discuss fairy-stories, provided there's a staid and someway learned intention to do so, but only once we agree that such an interesting discussion would answer the question —rather, I think it can't bring to anything but the arrogant claim to be able to deduce what JRRT would have answered if asked with such a question.

There's a subtle point here. Briefly, using JRRT's own words and thoughts (e.g. about fairy-stories) to show something about a question on JRRT works, does not make the arguments stronger: it would be the same if we would have used words and thoughts of, say, C.S.Lewis, or a literary critic. Unless the OP is asking us to report the answer of the author on his own work —and if he hasn't stated it clearly and directly as answer to a similar question, then we are again in the path of the arrogant claim I was talking about in the previous paragraph.

Therefore, since we must stay in the Land of Speculation and Subjectivity, I prefer to stay also with my own subjectivity —which, by the way, may be, among other things, a consequence of all the readings I've done in my life, included JRRT's writings.

In order to make me consider (a set of) a tale(s), a book(s), a novel(s), … as a «fleshed-out world», I need at least two "elements":

  • Maps of the world or part of it (bonus: the maps are produced inside by past or present characters, even if they do not appear in the story; i.e. they are not only an "extra-diegetic" guide given by the author for the reader)
  • Language: inhabitants of this world must have a language (or more languages) of their own and this language must prented to exist beyond the few words or sentences the author has used here and there in the tale; namely, the reader must think such a language exists and that the author is able to cook other sentences using a dictionary and a grammar (bonus: the author has really created a language…)

Now, none of the other works I know about (among these, many of those cited in the other answer) have this two "elements" and are not in relationship to «the world of Arda» or LotR.

Thus, my conclusion is that JRRT has not conceived other works that can be considered «large works» or «fleshed-out worlds» beyond the most famous and known "World".

Final note

If we relax the constraints, it seems to me the question collapses into this one: has J.R.R.Tolkien written (not necessarily published) other tales/stories/books «that don't have any connection to the world of Arda»?

The answer to this question, as can be easily checked even on the JRRT page on wikipedia, is Yes, he did.

  • 5
    Obviously he didn't make any worlds "which can compare" to Middle Earth, very few people ever have. But what about worlds that can't compare? He could easily have spent a few years in school designing a fantasy world that he abandoned, or had a collaborative side-project with one of the Inklings that never really went anywhere. If the answer is "no" that's fine, but it's not really true to say he didn't have the time or energy to do anything else. – Nerrolken Jan 18 '14 at 0:41
  • Then the Q is subjective or can be answered only by a biographer or by a reader of a detailed biography that digs into unpublished works beyond those Cristopher Tolkien has published. Moreover, what counts as "world"? Maybe the cited Father Christmas Letters set up a "world" according to you. To me, they don't. – ShinTakezou Jan 18 '14 at 0:50
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    I agree, the question calls for knowledge that only someone familiar with Tolkien's early life and creative relationships would have. That's the purpose of this website: asking for information from people who know more than you do about a topic. I don't know, so I posted a question. – Nerrolken Jan 18 '14 at 1:00
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    -1. Any good answer should be based on quantitative analysis of Tolkien's full list of works, NOT on subjective guesses. You can quibble what is and isn't a world, but the meaty part of the answer should be listing the texts and what is each texts' "world" if any. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 18 '14 at 1:26
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    let us continue this discussion in chat – balanced mama Jan 18 '14 at 19:08

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